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Dual SIM Phones vs Amaysim vs Contract for Mobile Phones

Currently Dick Smith is offering two dual-SIM mobile phones for sale in Australia. One is the LG T510 for $99, but it only supports GSM on each SIM. This might be a good phone for someone who needs to receive both work and personal calls and doesn’t want to carry two phones, but the lack of 3G support is a major limit on what can be done with the phone.

The other phone is the Huawei U8520 which supports 3G on one SIM and GSM on the other. It costs $249, runs Android 2.2, has a 320*480 display, and a 3.2 megapixel camera. For comparison the LG Optimus One is a single-SIM phone with similar specs that only costs $179 from TeleChoice, so there is a 40% price premium to pay for a dual-SIM phone.

When I first heard about dual-SIM phones (before they were commonly and cheaply available in Australia) I had thought that it would be a good option for using a cheap 3G broadband SIM along with a SIM for voice calls from one of the cheaper pre-paid mobile companies. But the helpful guy at Dick Smith informed me that Amaysim offers good pre-paid deals for voice and data [1]. With 10G of data quota to be used in one year for $100 and reasonable rates on voice calls it should be easy to keep under $200 per annum if you don’t use many calls.

Rene Cunningham has described how to use a pre-paid data-only plan on the Optus network with VOIP for most outbound calls [2]. To do that he is paying $30 every 6 months to keep his old number for inbound calls for which he gets $30 of credit, with Amaysim you can pay $10 every 3 months to get the same result with $40 per annum call cost instead of $60. As Amaysim are on the Optus network the result should be the same as long as Amaysim have enough capacity for IP data transfer. Rene uses an iPhone but the same result can be achieved with an Android phone.

If by using VOIP the cost of running a phone on Amaysim was reduced to something like $160 per annum (with a possibly optimistic aim of $20 per annum for outbound VOIP calls) then over two years that could save $376 over a $29 per month contract. A Virgin $29 contract includes a Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 which is a fairly nice phone if you can deal with the short battery life and the fact that it’s locked to Android 2.1. An Xperia X10 can be bought on Ebay for less than $376 but the hassle of setting up VOIP and Amaysim will be more effort than it’s worth to save $100 over two years.

A couple of my relatives have phone contracts that are about to expire. I’m not going to set them up on VOIP as it’s too much effort for too little benefit and the dual-SIM phone really isn’t an option. I will recommend Virgin contracts with Xperia X10 phones or Amaysim with their existing phones (2yo smart phones that are still quite usable).

8 comments to Dual SIM Phones vs Amaysim vs Contract for Mobile Phones

  • Hi Russell,

    Why wouldn’t you go TPG’s $9.99 or $17.99 plans? These are no contract plans (stop any time you like), and the more expensive plan comes in at $216/year, with 18 GB data (1.5gb/month), and around 9 hours talk time per month (can use $1/minute as the ballpark rate, so $550 of included value = 550 mins = bit more than 9 hours). Longer if several relatives who call each other change over, as you get a crazy high allowance for caling other TPG mobiles (more than you could ever use). Details & discussion here: http://www.ozbargain.com.au/node/52985 ; Main downside is it gets pricey if people go over their quotas, so if in doubt, take the higher one, and then decrease if it’s not being used.

    And for the X10, apparently you might be able to get it from vodafone and unlock it for $149. Details: http://www.ozbargain.com.au/node/55747 – it’s being run out though, so may be hard to find somewhere with stock, but try ringing around.

    A vodafone X10 + unlock on a + later on install cyangenmod (it’s coming – see http://www.cyanogenmod.com/blog/sony-ericsson-xperia-support ) + a TPG “super saver” plan = the absolute best value combo on the market at the moment, in my opinion.

    Most of the VoIP calls on mobiles I’ve tried sounded terrible – fine for when using free wifi overseas, but not even remotely worth the hassle for your home country IMHO. Also TPG is same network as Amaysim, so presumably coverage and call quality should be the same.

    Just my 2 cents!

    Cheers,
    Nick.

  • Nick J

    Just looking at the amaysim site, and for data is says: “Data charged in 1MB increments.”
    Ouch – that means if 5 K is used, it gets charged as 1Mb off the quota. TPG PAYG is 100 kb (still high), and their saver plans are 10 K or 1 K (not sure which).
    The whole “data increments” thing is a scam, and especially on an android device that checks for updates/facebook/weather regularly, that will eat into data. E.g. my android phone connects to the net about 8 times for a day, and over 365 days at 1MB per increment that’s 2.9 gig, so 1 gig will not be enough. Be cautious about the high data increments, because it’s hidden in the fine print, but has a huge effect on how much data you really get.
    By the way, the worst offender for this is Optus proper. They have 10 MB increments on some SIMs, which is so high it’s outright ripoff. My android tablet used 3 GB data in a month, with me using it lightly. Thankfully that was prepaid though.

  • etbe

    Nick: Thanks for the information about the X10 sale, that’s a great offer!

    I believe that the 1MB increment means that if you use 1MB+1byte then you pay for 2MB and doesn’t mean that if you receive 1000 packets of 100 bytes each separated by some time that you will be charged for 1000MB of data.

  • etbe

    OK, doing the calculations, $149 for a discount X10 + $10 per 3 months over 2 years + $100 per year for data over 2 years = $429.

    The cheapest Virgin plan that gives a free X10 is $29 per month which is $29*24=$696 over two years. The cheapest way of getting an X10 from Virgin is with the $19 plan and an extra $5 per month which is $24*24=$576.

    So it seems that minimal use of calling with Amaysim one would save $696-$429=$267 over two years when compared to the full Virgin plan or $576-$429=$147 when compared to the cheapest Virgin plan.

    The cheapest Virgin plan ($19+$5) gives you $50 of calls per month at $0.99 per minute plus $0.40 flag-fall means something like 35 minutes of calls per month. Amaysim gives you calls for $0.15 per minute so $40 per annum gives you an average of 22 minutes of calls per month. $60 per annum with Amaysim would give about the same amount of calls as from the Virgin $19 plan and save $107 over two years.

  • etbe

    That $10 per month plan from TPG looks good. It gives you up to 180 minutes of calls per month (more than enough) and 250MB of data (barely adequate) for $120 per annum compared to a minimum of $140 per annum for Amaysim. If I can get the Xperia X10 for $149 then two of my relatives will probably end up on TPG.

  • etbe

    Nick: I just visited a local Vodafone store, apparently there’s no shortage of stock and the X10 is locked to Vodafone. To get one unlocked you have to put it on a contract.

    Naturally they won’t run out of stock as long as the phones are locked, they don’t offer good deals and no-one who’s sensible would sign up with them nowadays.

  • [apologies is this gets posted twice, it's not clear to me if the first time when I added this response it worked - please delete if it's a dupe]

    > doesn’t mean that if you receive 1000 packets of
    > 100 bytes each separated by some time that you
    > will be charged for 1000MB of data.

    Actually, that’s much closer to what I think it means, and why it’s so dangerous. It’s like a constant rounding up (just like a 5 second call is charged the same as a 60 second call).

    Except rather than per-packet, it’s “per session”. (e.g. it says “per 10KB session” or “charged per 100KB session” in the fine-print on this page: http://www.tpg.com.au/mobile/plans.php – and no doubt amaysim is the same). And a session on a mobile network seems to be a concept that is poorly-explained by the carriers, but as far as I can tell, it’s as long as an application-level data connection is kept open. See more here: http://forum.tpg.com.au/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=24044

    So for example, if 1 MB increments are being used, and you use 15.1 MB browsing the web over 5 minutes, you’ll be charged 16 MB. But set the phone to notify you about facebook updates plus have a widget showing the latest news headlines, and which might use say 20 separate connections per day throughout the day of a few bytes or kb, and that’d be billed at 20 MB /day (or 600 MB a month) – even though the actual data used in total-byte-terms would be 0.1% of that amount.

    At least, that is my understanding of it – hence the dislike of large data increments – but other explanations or interpretations are welcome.

    > 250MB of data (barely adequate)

    Totally agree – going over this allowance is the main thing I’m worried about. If it was 750 MB or 1 GB I’d be much less concerned about going over.

    > the X10 is locked to Vodafone. To get one unlocked
    > you have to put it on a contract.

    Oh no, my bad, sorry – that sucks. I hadn’t realized it needed to be a contract to get an unlock code. I was going from the comments on ozbargain + this site: http://unlock.vodafone.com.au/voila/handsetunlock (which certainly gives at least the appearance that unlocking is automatic and painless and doesn’t mention any definite costs – but maybe that’s a smart marketing ruse, and the next screen would include a charge). I’d certainly try this first though (you don’t have anything to lose), and say you’re going on a holiday overseas for a week and want to take your phone, if they call and ask why you want it. It *might* even be possible to try using this website on another phone whilst in the store, if you can see the IMEI on the X10 box before paying (could be hard though, unless they have the boxes behind a glass case of something).

    Well, given the above, and assuming unlocking with vodafone is prohibitively expensive or restricted to contract-only users, time to move on to Plan B, which is using the unlock code companies (you can get a list here: http://www.reviewcentre.com/products3503.html – then search by rating high to low, then only look at the ones with a significant number of votes).

    From this, it certainly looks like unlocking the X10 is possible, but it costs, and this cost has to be added to the X10′s purchase price, to make it a fully functional device. For example at this site: http://www.cellunlocker.net/sony-ericsson-unlock.php – it’s $29.99 to unlock an X10 on Vodafone (presumably that’s in USD). There were a few other UK ones that seemed to be about 21 to 26 GBP (or ~ AUD$38). There might be cheaper ones, but I stopped looking.

    So assume the X10 is $149 for locked hardware + $30 to unlock.

    Anyway, curious to hear what you decide – add a follow-up comment or post if you go ahead (and which vodafone shop you get it from, as it seems some are out or short of stock), and let us know what happens with the unlocking. Interested as I’m a bit on the fence about getting one myself.

    Cheers,
    Nick.

  • etbe

    Nick: Thanks for that information, that billing per 100KB thing sucks. Fortunately the major players don’t appear to be doing that.

    As for unlocking the phone, it could be that the Vodafone employee lied. Anyway my relatives are happy with the $29 per month plan from Virgin which they signed up for this morning, they got a 3 month discount for signing up online so it’s only $609 and Amaysim doesn’t save that much. Also there’s a limit to the amount of effort that I’ll invest to save someone else money. ;)